The Unification of China

Confucius and the Social Order

During the end of the Zhou Dynasty, China moved away from its ancient values of social order, harmony, and respect for authority. To restore these values Chinese scholars and philosophers looked for different solutions.
Chinas most influential scholar was Confucius. He was born in 551 BC, during that time the Zhou Dynasty was already in decline and this was a time of crisis and violence in China. He had a scholarly life and wanted to restore the order and moral living China had left behind. Confucius believed that social order, harmony, and good government could be restored in China if society were organized around five basic relationships:

1. Ruler and Subject
2. Father and Son
3. Husband and Wife
4. Older brother and younger brother
5. Friend and Friend

Three of these relationships were based on family. Confucius also said that children should practice filial piety, this meant devoting oneself to their parents during their lifetimes and also honoring their memories after death with certain rituals.
Confucius wanted to reform Chinese society by showing rulers how to govern wisely. Because of his wisdom he became minister of justice. Confucius ideas were collected by his students in a book called the Analects.


Confucian Ideas About Government

Confucius once said '' Education can transform a humble perosn into a gentleman''
With these words he created Bureaucracy ,or service who runs the government.
Confucianism was never known or settled as a religion but many people lived by its methods accepting right and wrong. It later spread from China to East Asia and became the foundation of the chinese government.


Other Ethical Systems

Besides Confucius other Chinese scholars and philosophers developed ethical systems with very different philosophies. Some were more focused in nature and others in government. For example, a Chinese thinker, Laozi, for him only natural order was important. This involves relationships among all living things. He said that a universal force called the Dao, meaning ‘’The Way’’, guides all things and that only humans of all the other creatures of nature fail to follow it. His philosophy came to be known as Daoism. Daoists made many important contributions to the sciences of alchemy, astronomy, and medicine.


Legalists Urge Harsh Rule

Confucius and Laozi were a group of practical political thinkers called the Legalists. They believed that a highly efficient and powerful government was the key to restoring order in society. Hanfeizi and Li Si were among the founders of Legalism.The Legalists taught that a ruler should provide rich rewards for people who carried out their duties well. Likewise, the disobedient should be harshly punished. In practice, the Legalists stressed punishment more than rewards.The Legalists believed in controlling ideas as well as actions. They suggested that a ruler burn all writings that might encourage people to criticize government.


I Ching and Yin and Yang

People with little interest in the philosophical debates of the confucians, daoists and legalists found answers to life's questions elsewhere. Some consulted the I Ching which was a book of oracles to solve ethical or practical problems.

Yin and Yang are 2 powers that together represent the natural rhythms of life. Yin represents all that is cold, dark, soft and mysterious. Yang is the opposite warm, bright, hard and clear. The symbol of yin and yang is a circle divided into halves. The circle represents the harmony of yin and yang. Both forces represent the rhythm of the universe and complement each other.

The Qin Dynasty Unifies China


The Qin Dynasty was the first power-centralized, unified and multi-national nation in the Chinese history. Although it only survived 15 years, it influenced the next Chinese dynasties. Shi Huangdi was the first emperor of the Chinese history. To unify the nation Emperor Qin carried out many reforms in politics, economy, military affairs, and culture.

In politics, he declared himself the Emperor of the State. He controlled all major powers. In economy, he standardized weights. Qinzhuan was the standardized font in the system of writing. He gave importance to infrastructure, irrigation works and road building. The Great Wall of China was built under his reign. His achievements improved Qin’s economy.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang was a tyrant, although he made many contributions to the country. To prevent criticism, he burn books of Confucian scholars and poets against Legalists. He buried 460 scholars alive after he learned their disagreement. This events are called, 'To Burn the Books and Bury the Scholars Alive'. The emperor built wonderful and luxurious palaces for him the famous Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses, together with his own mausoleum and the Wall of China by the impose of the mass , through heavy taxes, threats and heavy work.


A Program of Centralization

Shi Huangdi wanted everything to be in his control, so he started a sweeping program of centralization. He built a highway network spanning more than 4,000 miles. He also set the same standards throughout China for writing, law, currency, and weights and measures. He also created irrigation projects to increase farm production. Thanks to a new road system, trade blossomed and pushed a new class of merchants into prominence. All these projects needed money to happen and that caused harsh taxes and a repressive government made the Qin group unpopular. Shi Huangdi had banded China, but at the expense of human freedom.

Qin Dynasty’s Fall

The Qin dynasty’s power began to fall quickly after Qin Shi Huang died in 210 B.C. He died while on a trip to procure an elixir or immortality from Daoists magicians that was stuck on an island guarded by a sea monster. The news of his death was hidden until it was taken back to the place where his son, Qin Er Shi, was able to take charge as emperor by chief Zhao Gao and prime minister Li Shi would manipulate him so they would take control. Qin Er Shi executed many ministers and imperial princes. He also built many building projects, enlarged his army, increased taxes, and arrested any messenger that sent him bad news. In effect, many citizens revolted against him raising armies and also attacking many Qin officials.. Eventually, Qin Er Shi killed prime minister Li Shi and committed suicide leaving his throne to his nephew Ziying. The Qin finally came to an end when lieutenant Liu Bang from the Chu rebels attacked along the Wei River in 207 B.C.


The Qin Dynasty was the dynasty that defined China. The first emperor not only unified China, but went establishing writing, weights, and measures in his kingdom. This was used to trade among the newly aquired states. The states each had their own way of measuring and weighing, and the Qin emperor wanted his kingdom to be as one to strengthen it. When the emperor died, China went into a rage, and a rebellion against the Qin dynasty ensued, leading to the next dynasty, the Han.


The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was first started and constructed during the Qin Dynasty around 221 B.C., which was during Shi Huangdi's reign. The Great Wall of China today isn't like the one during the Qin Dynasty as the Great Wall was constantly fortified during the reigns of the different dynasties that took control of China. The Great Wall during the Qin Dynasty extended from the Yellow Sea in the east to the Gobi Desert in the west, and the walls rose from 20 to 25 feet tall, and the watch towers rose from 200 to 300 yards tall. When constructing the Great Wall, Shi Huangdi cruelly forced poor peasants to work on its construction, and if those peasants refused they would be killed. The work on the Great Wall was harsh and many laborers died in the process, because of that the peasants held a deep hatred against Shi Huangdi and the rest of the rulers of the Qin Dynasty.

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